Loss in a Time of Aging

Loss in a Time of Aging

I think one of the biggest things about growing older (and I’m into my 6th decade), is the losses you experience. When I think of the losses both big and small, I can’t help but understand that depression is always lurking around the corner. When will the next loss be too much to bear?

Looking back on my childhood, I remember my father spending a lot of time on a chair, staring at the television, after having come home from work. I often wondered why he wasn’t like the other dads who did stuff with their kids or who worked around the house. I always chalked up that to the fact that he had a heart condition. Looking back, I wonder if it was instead depression as a result of all the losses he experienced.

He had experienced losses early in life which he dealt with. He couldn’t go to college because his mother decreed that the money he had saved would go instead to educate his younger brother in the priesthood. On the heels of that his favorite sister died at 14 as a result of appendicitis. He worked in a job that didn’t hold much chance for advancement but with eight children to feed, he probably felt stuck.

When he entered his 50s after two rounds of heart attacks and strokes, he lost the ability to walk and to talk. The first time round he learned both again, but was faced with having to make some life changes as a result. After the second round, he bade goodbye to the ability to walk alone and to run and to talk clearly.

During these times, my mother and father both had to move from the house they called home and after a series of rental places, ended up in senior citizen housing. Their full life with cherished books and music and mementos had to be pared down to fit into a two room apartment.

The list could go on. Loss was something they faced daily. Big and small losses. Even in the strongest of us, loss takes a toll. And probably one of the biggest losses is that of the ability to be understood in this time of change. Very few of us understand what it is like to be old and to be facing these mounting losses. We think we know but do we really? I wasn’t aware with my dad. I wasn’t with my mom. And sometimes I feel like, even though I struggles with loss, I’m not even aware of it in those around me.

Loss is hard and given the right circumstances, it can open the door to depression. And if we as caregivers are oblivious to loss, we might not recognize depression either when it happens in those older ones we love.

– Bernadette

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One Response

  1. Loss can definitely result in depression, though more often it results in grief, which feels a lot like depression but isn’t the same thing. I think what is remarkable is how resilient many people are when they experience loss. Often it is only when the losses pile on top of each other and seem overwhelming that depression occurs (I’ve not experienced this myself but am a psychologist and have seen it many times in my clients).

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